Saturday, February 16, 2013

February 17, 1863 (Tuesday): Covering Richmond

Fort Monroe ( Edling photo)
General R. E. LEE,
Commanding, &c.:
    GENERAL: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your letters of the 14th instant. They give me interesting information, but correspond only partially with the accounts I receive here of the movements of the enemy.
    An officer of the signal corps, much trusted as a scout, has just returned from within a few miles of Fort Monroe and Newport News. He reports as certain that about 20,000 men have been landed and are encamped at Newport News. They were brought there by transports, in tow of steam-tugs. They are building tent-chimneys and bake-ovens, and seem settling themselves for a time, at least. They, as the scout learned, reported themselves as part of Hooker's army, being Burnside's old division, and believed they were again to be placed under Burnside's command. In addition to these troops at Newport News, 8,000 or 10,000 were reported (as the scout believes truly) to have been sent to Suffolk. In front of Newport News were five iron-clads, with steam kept constantly up, and occasionally moving about. They professed to expect an attack from our gunboats coming down the James, and do not intend to be taken by surprise, as at Charleston. On the bay there were some twenty-five or thirty transports. They had come down the bay with these troops, or a part of them; but whether down the Potomac or not the scout could not learn. He passed on up the York River on his return. There were no transports in that river, not had any additional troops been moved to or landed at Yorktown or Gloucester Point. Such is pretty fully all that is material in the reports of the scout.
    I send inclosed a copy of the only dispatch received to-day from General Beauregard.* There is no later intelligence from either Generals Pryor or French. All the troops sent by General Beauregard to Wilmington have been returned, and two brigades from North Carolina (Clingman's and Cooke's) have been sent from Wilmington. General Ransom's other brigade will very probably likewise be ordered in the same direction, and he replaced in command of his division. As yet, however, the brigade under him is only ordered to be held in readiness.
    I am pleased to learn that, with characteristic vigilance, you are forwarding Pickett's and Hood's divisions to keep ward here. As you have confided in my discretion the location to which, until further orders, they shall be assigned, I shall order Pickett's on the other side of the river, so as to be in a position, if necessary, more readily to support Pryor and defend Petersburg.
    I am inclined to think the enemy's movements too serious for a feint or diversion, and that Hooker really designs withdrawing from the Rappahannock and changing his whole plan. He seemed fully committed to an advance on the Rappahannock, but, very fully trusted by his Republican or Abolition confreres, he can venture to advance and do what Burnside could not. We must, however, await developments, for as yet information is too scant for confident judgment.
     With great esteem, truly, yours,

     J. A. SEDDON,
    Secretary of War.

*Not found.

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 25, Part 2, Page 630.

The Union IX Corp was sent by water to Fort Monroe, threatening Richmond and Petersburg by a possible advance from Yorktown or Suffolk.  In response, Lee sent Longstreet with Hood and Pickett's Division to block the advance.  The events show how important Petersburg was to the Confederates.  Merely by moving men to Fort Monroe, near to a half of Lee's Army was taken out of position for any offensive operations.

No comments:

Post a Comment